House of Representatives Passes Defense Bill Increasing Missile Defense Spending By $2.5 Billion

It looks like missile defense will continue to be a growth industry for US defense contractors:

The U.S. House of Representatives on Friday passed a defense bill calling for increased spending on missile defense programs amid North Korea’s evolving threats.

The National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2018 (H.R. 2810) passed 344-81 to order US$696 billion for defense in the fiscal year 2018, including some $12.5 billion for missile defense programs.

“The Committee continues to be a strong supporter of a robust missile defense program given the increasing threats against our homeland and regional allies posed by North Korea, Iran and others,” the House Committee on Armed Services said in a summary of the bill posted on its website. “The bill adds $2.5 billion above the President’s budget request to meet critical missile defense needs. It also recognizes the increasing quantitative and qualitative nature of the ballistic missile threats we face as a nation.”  [Yonhap]

You can read more at the link.

THAAD Conducts Successful Intercept Flight Test In Alaska Against Musudan Equivalent Target

The big take away for Korea watchers from this successful flight test of the THAAD missile defense system is that the threat target was an Intermediate Range Ballistic Missile (IRBM) which is the same class of missile as North Korea’s Musudan.  A THAAD battery was deployed to Guam back in 2013 to defend against the Musudan threat to Guam and this flight test validates its capability to defend against this threat:

The United States said on Tuesday it shot down a simulated, incoming intermediate-range ballistic missile similar the ones being developed by countries like North Korea, in a new test of the nation’s defences.

Planned months ago, the U.S. missile defence test over the Pacific Ocean has gained significance after North Korea’s July 4 launch of an intercontinental ballistic missile heightened concerns about the threat from Pyongyang.

The test was the first-ever of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense system against an incoming IRBM, which experts say is a faster and more difficult target to hit than shorter-range missiles.

The U.S. Missile Defense Agency said the IRBM was designed to behave similarly to the kinds of missiles that could threaten the United States.

“The successful demonstration of THAAD against an IRBM-range missile threat bolsters the country’s defensive capability against developing missile threats in North Korea and other countries,” the Missile Defense Agency said in a statement.   [Reuters]

You can read more at the link, but the THAAD system has now had 14 of 14 successful intercepts during flight tests.

GMD System Successfully Intercepts A Threat Representative ICBM During Test

I think it is important to remember these tests are in a highly controlled environment, but I think without a doubt it does increase confidence in the only system the US currently has to defend against the North Korean ICBM threat:

VANDENBERG AFB, CA – MAY 30: A ground-based interceptor rocket is launched on May 30, 2017 from Vandenberg Air Force Base, California. The rocket from Vandenberg successfully intercepted and destroyed a target missile in space – most likely above waters east of Hawaii that have been temporarily closed to all shipping. (Photo by Al Seib/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)

The Pentagon announced that the United States on Tuesday tested for the first time its intercontinental ballistic missile defense system, a system designed to foil the types of missiles Kim Jong-un and North Korea have been looking to develop.

According to Reuters, the Ground-based Midcourse Defense (GMD) interceptor test took place today at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.

The test was a success.

“We improve and learn from each test, regardless of the outcome. That’s the reason we conduct them,” Pentagon spokesman Captain Jeff Davis said Tuesday. “The system that we test today is a developmental system that’s being flown for the first time and we look forward to understanding the results so we continue to mature the system and stay ahead of the threat.”

While the test is said not to be just about North Korea, the timing indicates that it has everything to do with Kim Jong-un’s recent ballistic missile tests.  [Atlanta Journal Constitution]

That is where many in the media are getting it wrong, these tests are planned out and scheduled years in advance.  The fact North Korea fired ballistic missiles recently as the Pentagon has said had nothing to do with the timing of the test.  Plus this system could not shoot down those missiles anyway.  GMD is only used to defend against ICBMs.  The shorter and medium range missiles that North Korea has been firing recently would be defended against by the THAAD and Patriot missile defense systems.

You can read more about this history of the GMD program at Defense News.

Report Claims High Altitude Ballistic Missiles Can Defeat US Missile Defenses In South Korea

Once again people are confusing the term missile defense system with THAAD:

North Korea is believed to have designed its series of missile tests in a way that can beat THAAD and other U.S. missile defense systems aimed at protecting South Korea and Japan, according to a congressional report Thursday.

The Congressional Research Service said in a report cited by the Washington Times that the North test-launched missiles last year in flights precisely designed to avoid interception by rocketing them into much higher altitudes.

That was aimed at getting the reentry warhead to descend at a steeper angle and faster speed, “making it potentially more difficult to intercept with a missile defense system,” the CRS report said, according to the newspaper.

The North has also demonstrated an ability to launch a salvo attack with multiple missiles, it said.

“This is consistent with a possible goal of being able to conduct large ballistic missile attacks with large raid sizes, a capability that could make it more challenging for a missile defense system to destroy each incoming warhead,” the CRS report said.  [Yonhap]

First of all of course if North Korea masses enough ballistic missiles at one location and there is not enough Patriot and THAAD interceptors to shoot them down then ballistic missiles will get through.  This is not a missile defense problem it is a math problem.  The other thing people need to realize is if the Kim regime masses missiles in one location to defeat a missile defense battery that means it has less in its inventory to use in other locations.

Secondly there are different types of missile defense systems which THAAD is one part of.  Patriot is a lower tier system that cannot do engagement outside the atmosphere.  THAAD is a system that can do engagement outside the atmosphere to intercept missiles fired at higher altitudes as cited in the article.

When I get time I will have to read the actual CRS report because what the media claims and what is actually in a report are often very different things.

Scientists Claim THAAD Cannot Protect South Korea for North Korean Missile Attack

A group of scientists is claiming THAAD cannot effectively defend South Korea from ballistic missile attack:

Another scientist, David Wright, co-director of the Union of Concerned Scientists’ Global Security Program, said that a salvo of North Korean short-range missiles could overwhelm THAAD.

The 10 million people living in Seoul will also not be protected by THAAD, since it is being installed 125 miles south of the city. “It cannot engage missiles fired at Seoul, so it offers no additional protection of the city,” David Wright told the Associated Press.

“We have a layered defense systems, which is shared with the Republic of South Korea and Japan,” Commander Gary Ross, a Pentagon spokesperson, told Business Insider in response to whether or not Seoul was protected. “But we don’t discuss specific weapons systems.”

As it stands, US Patriot Advanced Capability-3 missile defenses provide protection for Seoul, though it has similar limitations to THAAD.

One scientist was even more wary of THAAD’s capabilities. Harris’ statement about THAAD is “technically incorrect,”Theodore Postol, a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, said.”The THAAD interceptor is very easily defeated by either causing a missile to tumble end over end or by intentionally fragmenting a rocket into pieces.”

In the case of a saturation attack, or a large volume of missiles as Postol described, THAAD’s defense capabilities “can be expected to be very low, probably zero or close to that,” Postol said.  [Business Insider]

You can read more at the link, but of course if North Korea masses enough ballistic missiles at one location and there is not enough Patriot and THAAD interceptors to shoot them down then ballistic missiles will get through.  When it comes to Seoul, North Korea can already destroy Seoul with artillery why waste ballistic missiles by shooting at it?

It seems they would want to use their ballistic missiles to target areas further to the south that their artillery systems cannot reach.  Additionally as mentioned in the article THAAD is not the only missile defense system in South Korea with Patriot batteries deployed across the peninsula.  THAAD has never been sold as being a magic force field to protect all of South Korea, it is part of a layered missile defense system to protect the country.

Trump Wants ROK Government to Pay Cost for Deployment of THAAD to Korea

I think who ever the next ROK president is will find it politically very difficult to pay for the THAAD deployment like President Trump is now requesting.  I think this may just be something President Trump is doing as a bargaining chip for future US-ROK Free Trade Agreement renegotiations which is something else he has been wanting.  I guess we will see what happens:

In the top left photo, elements of a U.S. Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) battery are being installed on a former golf course in Seongju, North Gyeongsang Province, Friday. In the bottom left photo, members of the Korean Federation of Environmental Movements stage a protest against the deployment of the anti-missile system at Gwanghwamun Square in central Seoul, Friday. In the right photo, U.S. President Donald Trump speaks at the Department of the Interior in Washington, Wednesday. Trump said in an interview with Reuters Thursday that Seoul should pay the cost for the battery which is around $1 billion. / AP-Yonhap

U.S. President Donald Trump has abruptly demanded that Seoul pay $1 billion for the deployment of a Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) battery here, stoking negative public sentiment against the anti-missile system.

In response to the unexpected, deal-breaking remark, the Ministry of National Defense said Friday that Washington should pay any costs in accordance with the two countries’ Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) that governs the treatment of U.S. forces stationed here.

Trump’s comments were squarely against the allies’ previous agreement, reached based on SOFA, which calls for South Korea to provide the U.S. Forces Korea (USFK) with the site for the anti-missile shield and other infrastructure, and for the U.S. to bear the cost of deployment and operation.

The government provided the USFK with land in Seongju County, North Gyeongsang Province, previously owned by Lotte Group, April 20.

Trump’s surprise remarks are adding fuel to the ongoing controversy over the deployment of the THAAD battery, giving objectors another reason to oppose it, along with fierce protests from local residents over the system’s possible environmental risks.

During an interview with Reuters, Thursday, President Trump said the THAAD system was to protect South Korean people, questioning why the U.S. should pay for that.

“On the THAAD system, it’s about a billion dollars. I said, ‘Why are we paying? Why are we paying a billion dollars? We’re protecting,'” he said. “So, I informed South Korea it would be appropriate if they paid.”

Stressing that the battery is “phenomenal” and “the most incredible” equipment to shoot down enemy missiles, he continued: “We’re going to protect them. But they should pay for that, and they understand that.”  [Korea Times]

Here is the ROK political reaction to President Trump’s demand:

Presidential front-runner Moon has been opposing the deployment of the U.S.-led antimissile defense system in Korea.

“The deployment and management of the Thaad system must be paid for by the U.S. government, as agreed upon initially between the two governments,” said People’s Party Rep. Son Kum-ju, chief spokesman of the presidential campaign of Ahn Cheol-soo. “But if there were disagreements on the bilateral agreement to deploy the defense system, the agreement must be tabled for approval at the National Assembly.”

The Park Geun-hye administration last July said the deployment requires no approval by the National Assembly, but liberal opposition parties that are against the placement said the matter should be deliberated and ratified by the lawmakers.

“The People’s Party also opposes renegotiating the Korea-U.S. FTA. It is only right that two countries stick to agreements they have reached together,” Son added.

Some lawmakers went so far as to request the cancellation of the agreement over Thaad.

“We would rather the U.S. government take back the Thaad battery if it’s going to make the South Korean government pay for it,” said Rep. Sim Sang-jeung of the Justice Party, also a candidate for the presidential election, in a campaign speech on Friday at Hongik University Station in western Seoul. “The South Korean people have not asked for Thaad.”  [Joong Ang Ilbo]

It will be interesting to see how this turns out.

South Korea Announces It Will Buy Two More Israeli Green Pine Radars

South Korea continues to beef up its missile defense capabilities in an effort to keep pace with the North Korean ballistic missile threat:

The headquarters of South Korea’s Defense Acquisition Program Agency (DAPA) in a photo provided by Yonhap News TV. (Yonhap)

South Korea said Tuesday it has decided to purchase two advanced early warning radars on incoming ballistic missiles as North Korea’s threats have grown.

The plan was approved at a regular meeting on arms procurement projects presided over by Defense Minister Han Min-koo, according to the Defense Acquisition Program Agency (DAPA).

It plans to import the radars in the project starting within this year.

The South Korean military has two Israel-made Green Pine land-based radars in operation. It is seeking to acquire radars with the maximum range of more than 800 kilometers to better detect ballistic missiles fired by the North.

Initially, the defense authorities earmarked budget for the purchase of one more radar. But they have revised a mid-term defense plan to buy two more.

South Korea is in the process of establishing the so-called Korea Air and Missile Defense system.  [Yonhap]

US Media Creating New Meme that USS Carl Vinson Vulnerable to North Korean Missile Attack

Here is the stupidest article that I have read today that is example of the bias in the mainstream media against the Trump administration:

Trump ‘Armada’ Sent to Deter Kim Can’t Shoot Down His Missiles

The U.S. Navy flotilla sailing toward the Korean peninsula to deter Kim Jong Un’s regime lacks a key capability: It can’t shoot down ballistic missiles.

The USS Carl Vinson and the aircraft carrier’s accompanying destroyers and cruiser are expected to arrive in waters near the peninsula this week, carrying a full complement of weaponry, including scores of Tomahawk cruise and anti-ship missiles, radar-jamming aircraft and non-stealthy “Super Hornet” jets built by Boeing Co.

That firepower brings a lot to any fight, but the Navy’s lack of ballistic missile defense capability on the scene means the Trump administration’s high-profile show of force has a significant gap as it warns North Korea against another missile test and pressures it to back down from its nuclear program.  [Bloomberg]

Does this writer, Anthony Capaccio really think the US Navy is stupid enough to put an aircraft carrier at risk of a North Korean ballistic missile strike without missile defense?  The US Navy will defend the aircraft carrier and any other assets with an Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense (BMD) capability as needed.  Where the carrier is at now off the coast of Okinawa does not warrant Aegis BMD protection.

The article then goes on to claim the Korean peninsula is at risk from ballistic missile attack as well:

While the Obama administration began the process of deploying Thaad, a high-altitude missile defense system, to the South Korean mainland, the hardware isn’t fully operational yet either. That leaves Seoul — just 35 miles (56 kilometers) south of the demilitarized zone — and the rest of the country more vulnerable to attack.

Obviously Mr. Capaccio does not know that both the US and the ROK militaries have Patriot missile batteries located across the peninsula.  The THAAD battery was installed to add an advanced upper tier missile defense capability to compliment the already existing lower tier Patriot coverage.

It is pretty clear by the title of the article that Mr. Capaccio is trying to make President Trump look dumb by supposedly not having an Aegis BMD ship with the carrier.  The media is now jumping on this meme with Newsweek publishing a similar headline of “USS Carl Vinson Cannot Shoot Down Missiles“.  I wonder how many other media outlets will echo the same claim to where people who read just the headline begin to think it is true?

US Military Installs THAAD Missile Defense System in South Korea Despite Protests

By all appearances it seems the US and ROK governments pushed ahead with the installation of the THAAD missile defense system before the upcoming ROK presidential election though USFK is not commenting on this:

U.S. military vehicle moves past banners opposing a plan to deploy an advanced U.S. missile defense system called Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense, or THAAD, as South Korean police officers stand guard in Seongju, South Korea, Wednesday, April 26, 2017. South Korea says key parts of a contentious U.S. missile defense system have been installed a day after rival North Korea showed off its military power. (Kim Jun-bum / AP)

The United States military started installing a controversial anti-missile defense system in South Korea overnight Tuesday, triggering protests and sparking criticism that it was rushing to get the battery in place before the likely election of a president who opposes it.

The sudden and unannounced move came only six days after U.S. Forces Korea secured the land to deploy the system, known as the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense, or THAAD.

Moon Jae-in, a liberal candidate who has a strong lead in the polls ahead of the May 9 presidential election, has promised to review South Korea’s decision to host the anti-missile battery.

“There’s a sense in Seoul that THAAD deployment has been rushed based on the timetable of South Korea’s presidential election, rather than North Korea’s threats,” said John Delury, a professor of international relations at Yonsei University in Seoul.

“To some extent, the acceleration of THAAD deployment has ‘worked,’ limiting the next South Korean leader’s room for maneuver,” Delury said. “But there’s the danger of a backlash among the South Korean public feeling like a pawn in the game of ‘America First.’ ”

U.S. Forces Korea did not make any statement about the deployment and did not immediately respond to a request for comment about why the installation was started in the dead of night.  [Chicago Tribune]

You can read more at the link, but the real surprise is that people are surprised by this.  USFK and the ROK government have been publicly signaling for months that the deployment will be accelerated.

Moon Jae-in is saying that the deployment decision should have been left up to the next government after reaching a national consensus.

“Moon Jae-in has been consistent in his position on the THAAD deployment: that must be decided by the next administration after enough public discussion and by national consensus,” Park Kwang-on said in a statement.

“Any deployment that completely ignores appropriate processes must be suspended now and the final decision should be made after consultation between South Korea and the U.S.” he said.

Anyway the US military did Mr. Moon a great favor because now when he likely becomes President he does not have to worry about this decision and can just blame the last government for allowing it to happen to appease his leftist base while getting the increased defense benefit against North Korea provided by THAAD.

Here is what was happening at the site as the equipment was rolling in:

In Seongju county, at the location of the THAAD site, around 4,000 police were present to ensure the equipment’s delivery. Around 400 protesters were present at a demonstration near the site, and police in riot gear held back protesters as the equipment rolled past on military trucks. Hwang Soo-young, an activist with the government watchdog group, the People’s Solidarity for Participatory Democracy (PSPD), was at the site of the protest Wednesday morning. She claimed that the protests turned violent as “police were pushing residents away.”
She claimed six people were injured during the encounter, although CNN has not been able to independently verify the claim.  She said that vehicles with equipment “including radar, launchers and generators” started passing the village of Soseongri at around 4.45 a.m. (3.45 p.m. Tuesday ET).  [CNN]
You can read more at the link, but apparently the residents are upset that they did not know about the deployment of the vehicles to the site.  Did they really think the US military would tell them when the equipment would drive to the site so they militant leftist groups that don’t live in Seongju could mobilize and block the road?
It will be interesting to see if the THAAD site in Seongju becomes a big cause for the Korean left to continue to protest or not over the coming months.

US Congressman Calls for Shooting Down North Korean ICBM

Once again people that do not understand missile defense are calling for the shoot down of a North Korea ICBM test:

The United States should be prepared to shoot down a North Korean intercontinental ballistic missile in the event the communist regime test-fires one as threatened, a U.S. congressman said Monday.

Rep. Will Hurd (R-TX) made the remark in an interview with CNN as tensions on the Korean Peninsula are running high with the U.S. sending an aircraft carrier strike group to the waters off the divided peninsula to guard against North Korean provocations.

“That battle carrier group has been in the region before. I think Kim Jong-un, he has the ability to kill hundreds of thousands of people right now in South Korea with the push of a button. He will stop at nothing to have an intercontinental ballistic missile,” Hurd said.

“We have to ask ourselves, what are we going to do when we see a potential test of an ICBM? Are we going to try to shoot that ICBM down? Are we going to let the test go on unimpeded? These are some of the questions that should be asked when it comes to Korea,” he said.  [Yonhap]

You can read the rest at the link, but it seems like every time North Korea threatens to do an ICBM test someone says the US should shoot it down.  What people don’t realize is that certain missile defense systems are designed to shoot down certain threats. For example a Patriot battery or even a THAAD in USFK cannot shoot down an ICBM. The only thing the US military has that can shoot down an ICBM is the GMD system that protects CONUS, Alaska and Hawaii. If North Korea fires an ICBM on a test trajectory to the south like they have done in the past the GMD system is not going to be able to shoot it down.

If North Korea fires an ICBM at US territory where the GMD system has to engage it the shoot down of its ICBM will be the least of its worries because that would be an act of war.